India’s Defence Sector – Focusing on Indigenous and Green Technologies

By Sanjay Banerjee - The author is passionate about how businesses can benefit from technology. He is a tech enthusiast and a senior business leader at EFY.

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‘’I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interactions. The world will have a generation of idiots.’ – Albert Einstein

The Paris Agreement on climate change is now the basis for many decisions on the manufacturing processes and systems that should be followed all over the world. While industry at large slowly moves toward the implementation of green technology, international militaries cannot be left behind in the race to adopt this technology. Certain ambitious targets have been set by the Paris Agreement, in terms of lowering energy consumption, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and slashing carbon emissions. Across all verticals, the adoption of more environment-aware manufacturing processes is referred to as green manufacturing.

Today, India’s armed forces are the third largest in the world and their combined expenditure is the eighth largest defence budget, globally. In 2016, on World Environment Day, the broad outline of how to reduce the carbon footprint of the Indian armed forces was chalked out. The Indian Navy recently created an energy and environment cell, which is tasked with making it an environmentally responsible force — not only energy and resource efficient, but resilient in terms of energy costs and disruptions. The main aims of this mission are energy conservation, diversification of energy supplies and minimising the impact on the environment.

These aims are being achieved by using cutting-edge technology and state-of-art equipment, which are energy efficient and have a low carbon footprint. Mass energy conservation drives have become the norm, driven by this cell. Regular mentoring sessions are held across the commands and repair stations, to continuously educate and sensitise personnel on the importance of energy and environmental conservation, and to make environment consciousness a way of life. These initiatives have borne fruit, with significant savings to the tune of Rs 15 million to Rs 200 million annually, per naval base station.

The Defence Institute of Bio-Energy Research (DIBER), a DRDO lab based at Haldwani in Uttarakhand, has developed a bio-diesel from a plant called Jatropha Curcas, which is a blend that includes 20 per cent normal diesel. Trials for this have been successful on ships like the INS Shivaji. And now, with the inclusion of the bio-diesel powered fast interceptor combat vehicles, the progress in this new direction is encouraging.

An overview of the changes

India today accounts for 14 per cent of global arms imports (see Figure 1 for global details), and 2.4 per cent of the country’s GDP is spent on defence. With the increased threats at our borders, the spend on defence is slated to touch 7-8 per cent of the GDP in the next five years. That’s the reason why Make in India is critical for the defence sector in times to come. In the process, traditional manufacturing methods would need to give way to lean and green options, even while improving the bottomline for businesses. Capital investment estimates for India’s defence sector over the next five years hint at a figure of US$ 250 billion, with 53 per cent invested in the Army, 23 per cent in the Air Force, 16 per cent in the Navy, 6 per cent in defence R&D, 1 per cent on ordinance factory development and the remaining 1 per cent on other miscellaneous activities.

World’s largest exporters and importers of weapons
Fig. 1: World’s largest exporters and importers of weapons

India today gets nearly 70 per cent of its defence requirements from abroad, but that’s slated to change with the new directives coming into force. And with the FDI level opening up to 49 per cent, the sector is surely going to see changes, with projections that Indian manufacturing for the defence sector will grow from 15 per cent of the total market to 25 per cent within five years.

So let’s look at the major products that are being made in India for its armed forces today, by adopting indigenous and green processes that have a focus on reusability.

Sonar dome:

India has joined a select group of countries that have the capabilities to manufacture the sonar dome. This dome is attached to the bottom of ships, and scans the seas for submarine threats. The manufacturing requirements are technically demanding.

The sonar dome

The R&D for this project was done at Pune, by the DRDO lab under the aegis of Research and Development Establishment Engineers (RDEE). The dome was manufactured by Kineco Ltd, a composites manufacturing facility in Goa. The other critical component in the design, Vacuum Assisted Resin Transfer Moulding (VARTM), was also successfully manufactured in India. The developments shown in this regard stand to benefit the land based and aerospace applications in the future.

Varunastra torpedo:

This underwater missile has been developed by research scientists at the Naval Science and Technological Labs (NTSL) in partnership with the Hyderabad based PSU, Bharat Dynamics, with a defined road map from creation to commissioning. And 2016 was the year when this initiative turned into reality.

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